Sparrow Primer

Savannah Sparrow by Keith Watson

Warren Wilson College & Owen Park
Swannanoa, NC
October 9, 2020

Song Sparrow by Alan Lenk

Register by clicking the ‘book now’ button above, or by contacting the Ventures office. We accept credit cards for an additional fee (2.9% for MC, Visa, Discover; 3.9% for AmEx), but you may also pay by bank transfer, cash, check, or money order. This Venture is limited to 12 participants.

Departure: We will meet at Charles D. Owen Park, located 0.7 mi up Warren Wilson Rd from the college. Time: 8 AM Cost: $55 – picnic lunch currently not included (until further notice)


A nice morning spent walking the trails and dirt roads of Warren Wilson College and Owen Park, specifically focusing on sparrows. Though the trails are easy to walk, we will likely end up walking several miles over the course of the morning. Comfortable footwear & a light jacket/wind protection are highly recommended.

Warren Wilson College and Charles D. Owen Park in Swannanoa are must-stops for any birder visiting the WNC region, especially in the fall. Collectively encompassing an area of over 300 acres of agricultural fields and riparian woodland along the Swannanoa River, the adjacent properties provide excellent habitat for both resident and transient species alike. Over 212 species have been recorded here, and the mix of habitats have proven fantastic, especially for finding sparrows!

If you’ve always struggled with sparrow identification, or if you’re just feeling rusty, then this is the trip for you! Early October is the perfect time to brush up on sparrows as this is when many of the migratory species just start returning, and we will look for newly arrived White-throated, White-crowned, Swamp and Savannah Sparrows. Resident species such as Song, Field, Chipping and Eastern Towee (our largest sparrow) should be around in good numbers and we’ll take our time to get good views of each one. There’s always the chance for a rare sparrow here as well, with a couple of Nelson’s Sparrows showing up about this time last fall on the college campus.

While sparrows will be our main quarry today, we won’t ignore any of the other birds we stumble upon. Bobolink, Wilson’s Snipe, American Pipit, plus straggling Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak are all possibilities, and we should find a decent selection of raptors hunting the fields or migrating along the river. Ducks will also be starting to arrive, and we could find Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, or Green-winged Teal on the ponds at Owen Park. To add to the excitement, the area has been a magnet for rarities over the last few years such as Dickcissel, Sedge & Marsh Wrens, and Baird’s Sandpiper.